The much anticipated World Conference on International Telecommunications, which took place earlier this month, ended without consensus. The outcomes of the meeting are now the subject of many debates, and are expected to develop further as ICT-related discussions unfold at the UN, the ITU, and other upcoming meetings.
The proceedings and outcomes of WCIT12 were the topic of our December Internet governance webinar, hosted by Internet governance analyst Samantha Dickinson (@sgdickinson).
The Dubai conference took place over a packed fortnight, with almost 400 scheduled meetings, leaving little time for lunch and rest. Over 1600 delegates convened, some in large groups, some on their own, representing a total of 152 (out of 193) states.
Our special host gave an excellent overview of the developments, and a rundown of the amended ITRs. Although some proposed amendments did not go through, other changes were introduced, including a number of new articles. Some of the additions relate to human rights (in the preamble); an update to the purpose and scope of the regulations where it is made clear that the ITRs do not address content-related aspects of telecommunications; a new reference to Authorised Operating Agencies (AOAs) that conduct international telecommunications; and a renewed effort in combatting spam.
In detailing the amendments to the ITRs, Dickinson also discussed some of the negotiation tactics. She described how some states argued for and against issues of lower priority at the start, while proposing important changes to the ITRs at the very end, to prevent others from developing strong arguments in a timely manner. However, some tactics backfired, as was the case of the UAE proposals which were leaked, and were not allowed to be proposed.
In relation to the changes introduced to the ITRs, Dickinson described their impact on important areas including net neutrality, openness, and diversity of services. Also of significant importance are issues which member states failed to agree on. States who are not happy with the outcomes will turn to other UN venues with their ideas.
The coming year will see more controversy surrounding the outcomes of WCIT12, and remaining issues which will need to be discussed in upcoming meetings. As negotiations unfold, it also remains to be seen whether transparency and openness will be embraced in the spirit of the multistakeholder model.